• <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant
  • <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in <i>The Seraphim and Other Poems</i>. $400,000 to 600,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> WILDE, OSCAR. Two leaves, pp 31-34, from the first appearance of <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890</i>, with Wilde's autograph revisions. $40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies; Published according to the true Originall Copies. Second Impression. [THE SECOND FOLIO.]</i> $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD. Photograph Signed ("John F. Kennedy") and Inscribed, 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver print, of Senator Kennedy and Miss Barelli, at the swearing of the secretarial oath for Miss Barelli. $1,200 to 1,800
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter XXVII of <i>Afloat and Ashore</i>. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> IRVING, WASHINGTON. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter 20 from Volume IV of <i>The Life of George Washington</i>. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> VERNE, JULES. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Jules Verne"), being the complete short story "<i>Une fantaisie de docteur Ox</i>". $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> ALCHEMY. <i>[The Crowning of Nature, or Coronatio Naturae.]</i> Original alchemical manuscript on paper, ruled in red, with watermark of the arms of Schieland. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> DE JODE, CORNELUS. 1568 - 1600. <i>Quivirae Regnu, Cum Alija Versus Borea</i>. [Antwerp: Arnoldum Coninx, 1593]. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> HOOKER, JOSEPH DALTON. <i>The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; Being an Account, Botanical and Geographical, of the Rhododendrons Recently Discovered in the Mountains of Eastern Himalaya</i>… $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> CATLIN, GEORGE. <i>North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains and prairies of America. From drawings and notes of the author, made during eight years' travel.</i> $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. HESLER, ALEXANDER. Platinum print, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in, of a beardless Lincoln, 1860.<br>$2,000 to 3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Single leaf from a paper copy of the Gutenberg Bible, Mainz, 1455, in a copy of Newton's <i>A Noble Fragment</i>. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Immanuel Kant, <i>Critik der reinen Vernunft</i>, first edition, Riga, 1781. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Hans Holbein, <i>The Images of the Old Testament</i>, with 94 woodcut illustrations, first edition in English, Lyon, 1549. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Samuel Johnson, <i>A Dictionary of the English Language</i>, first edition, London, 1755. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b><br>John Milton, <i>Paradise Lost</i>, first edition, London, 1668.<br>$6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Antonio de Guevara, <i>The Dial of Princes</i>, London, 1568.<br>$3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> <i>Oraciones de los SS. Mysterios Gloriosos y Dolorosos</i>, manuscript in Spanish, Brussels, 1676.<br>$3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b><br>Jan Nieuhoff, et al., <i>An Embassy from the East-India Company... to the Grand Tartar Cham, Emperour of China, </i>London, 1671. 4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Moses Maimonides, <i>Ha-Higayon... Logica</i>, first edition, Basel, 1527.<br>$800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Petrus Berchorius, <i>Liber Bibliae moralis</i>, fourth edition of the first volume, Cologne, 1477.<br>$10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b> Niccolò Machiavelli, <i>The Florentine Historie</i>, first edition in English, London, 1595. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 9:</b><br>Sir Philip Sidney, <i>The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia</i>, third edition, London, 1598. $3,000 to $5,000.
  • <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2008 Issue

The Government Faces Off Against a Collector for a Declaration of Independence

Wiscasset

Turn of the Century Wiscasset, from the period when the Declaration was in the home of Town Clerk Sol Holbrook.


By Michael Stillman

Another case involving "lost" public documents is playing out in a Virginia court, the type of case we both hate to see and expect to see more of in the days ahead. It pits a public authority against an innocent collector, the latter standing to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of a purchase made in good faith. There must be a better way.

The item is a copy of the Declaration of Independence, not the first printing, but a very early one, from 1776. It was printed in Salem, Massachusetts, and apparently went to the Town of Pownalborough in what was then northern Massachusetts. The town is today known as Wiscasset and what was then northern Massachusetts is now known as Maine. Somewhere along the way, as Massachusetts lost Pownalborough and Pownalborough lost its name, Wiscasset lost its copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Today it is in the possession of Richard L. Adams of Virginia. Obviously, he believes he is the owner. He would not have paid $475,000 to borrow it for a few months. Exactly what happened to it between 1776 and 2008 is not certain, but here is what appears to have occurred over the last hundred years or so. It apparently was held by Sol Holbrook, a watchmaker by trade who was Wiscasset's Town Clerk from 1886-1929. It may sound odd, even questionable, that a town clerk would have had important public papers in his home, but those of us who have lived in small town New England will not be surprised at all. These towns would have had few, if any, public facilities, and no place to store the reams of public papers that accumulated over a century and a half. The one person who would be most likely to ever need any of these records would be the Town Clerk, so it is quite natural that they would end up in his house. And, while there might be some call for town minutes or the like from the past decade or so, the need to access records from the distant past would be negligible if not totally nonexistent. Most likely, the records, which included this Declaration of Independence, made their way to Holbrook's attic quite early in his town clerking career, and never saw the light of day again.

After Holbrook died, no one came to reclaim the records for the town. It is likely after all of those years no one knew what he had, and no one cared. So the records ended up in the attic of Holbrook's daughter, Anna Plumstead. It's doubtful either she or her father ever had any idea there was something valuable in there. When she died in 1994, her belongings were put up for auction, and that was when it became clear there was something of value. At that 1995 estate auction, it sold for $77,000. Since then, it has gone through a couple of private sales, at one time being held by London bookseller Simon Finch, before making its way to Adams. Now, Adams wants to sell it, and the State of Maine, which somehow missed the auction in Maine in which it was sold, has hightailed it down to Virginia to seize the copy.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Lawbook Exchange. Trials for Murder, Robbery, Burglary, Rapes, Sodomy... 4 vols. London, 1764. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> An Enquiry Concerning the Liberty, And Licentiousness of the Press. New York, 1801. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Tavern Licence Granted to John Swan by Mayor James Duane, 1789. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> First edition of Story's, Commentaries on the Constitution. 3 vols. Boston, 1833. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Manuscript Law Dictionary. Repertorium Universale, Amandola, Italy, c.1750. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Magna Carta. London, 1556. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Hemard. Code Civil, in an extraordinary binding. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Two Accounts of the Murder of Mr. John Hayes. London, 1726. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Robinson, Boardman. Mr Justice Precedent. 1914. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Five volumes of Italian Legal Code in miniature. Turin: Fratelli Bocca, 1901-1903. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Tartagni. Alexander de Imola in Prima(m) (et) Secunda(m)... Venice, 1514. In a contemporary chained binding. See at the 2017 NY ABAA Book Fair Booth C-22
    <b>Lawbook Exchange:</b> Catalogue 85. Recently Acquired Books, Manuscripts & Ephemera
  • <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>SAXTON, Christopher. <i>The Travellers Guide being the best Mapp of the Kingdom of England and Principality of Wales</i>. London, [1583, but c.1716].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>VISSCHER, Claes Jansz. <i>Novissima et Accuratissima Leonis Belgici</i>. Amsterdam, Claes Jansz Visscher, [1611-1621 or later].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius. <i>Decima Asie Tabula</i>. Ulm, Lienhart Holle, 16 July 1482.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>WIT, Frederick de, and Gerard VALK. <i>Orbis Terrarum Nova et Accurata Tabula</i>. Amsterdam, Gerard Valk, [c.1690-1700].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>APIANUS, Petrus. <i>Astronomicum Caesareum</i>. Ingolstadt, Peter Apian, 1540.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>CASSINI, Jean-Dominique. <i>Carte de la Lune</i>. Paris, Jean-Dominique Cassini, 1787.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius. <i>Geographicae enarrationis libri octo</i>. Argentoragi, 1525.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>[SAXTON, Christopher]. <i> [An Atlas of England and Wales]</i>. [London, Christopher Saxton, 1579].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> Commission des sciences et arts d'Egypte. <i>Description de l’Égypte</i>… Paris, Imprimerie impériale - Imprimerie royale, 1809-1828.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b> CHURCHMAN, John. <i>To George Washington President of the United States of America this Magnetic Atlas or Variation Chart is humbly inscribed by John Churchman</i>. Philadelphia, 1790.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>APIANUS, Petrus. <i>Tipus Orbis Universalis</i>. Vienna, Johannes Camertius, 1520.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>LORIOT, A[uguste], [after] Nicolas LANE. <i>[Pocket globe]</i>. London, 65 New Bond Street, 1809.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>BLAEU, Johannes. <i>Grooten Atlas</i>. Amsterdam, Joan Blaeu, 1662-1665.
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>INGEBORG BRUN, Emmy. <i>Mars efter Lowell’s Glober 1894-1914</i>. Denmark, [c1915].
    <b>Daniel Crouch Rare Books</b><br>LUTHER, Martin. <i>Der vierde Teil aller Bücher vnd Schrifften des thewren seligen Mans</i>. Gedruckt zu Jhena, Durch Christian Rödinger, 1556.

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